The following is a review of the Triumph Tiger 800 that I wrote back in December 2010. This appeared on several forums and was also published in Motorcycle News.
Besides Triumph employees and journalists, I think that I have the privilege of being the first member of public in Suffolk to ride the new Triumph Tiger 800 this morning. A few weeks ago, I test rode the BMW F800 GS because I knew that I would be riding the Tiger and I wanted to have a direct comparison between the two bikes.
With a full tank of petrol and only 30 miles on the clock, rode out of Lings Triumph at about 11:30am. As the roads were very greasy on this mid-December morning and because the bike was still being run-in, I took it easy for the first few miles down Foxhall Road to the A12 and then on to the A14. Riding on the dual carriageway at 70 mph (5,000 rpm in 6th gear) was very comfortable with the screen offering plenty of protection without too much wind noise – I think I would be happy doing this all day as the seating position is very comfortable and the bars are perfectly positioned for this kind of riding.
I peeled off the A14 down into Ipswich so that I could pop in to see some friends and get their reactions to the bike. The general consensus was positive with many questions about how it was to ride and what the engine was like. A couple of GS 1200 riders were very interested in the bike looking over every aspect and comparing it with their bikes. Even they were very impressed!
Back on the road, I headed out to Hadleigh to ride a route that I have taken many bikes down as it covers all tyres of road from fast A roads to tight and twisty Bs and finishes off with a few miles of dual carriageway. There are a couple of points that are immediately better on the Tiger than the F800 GS: the first is the engine which, even though I had to keep it below 5,000 rpm, has a lot more acceleration and it feels so much more lively than the twin BMW. On the BMW, I had to drop it down a couple of cogs when overtaking whereas the Triumph is happy to give you that bit extra as and when you need it. Riding around the twisty B roads in 3rd or 4th gear is a breeze, just rolling on and off the throttle from one corner to the next with plenty of torque just as and when you need it. This kind of riding highlighted the second positive point that the Tiger has over the BMW and that is the perfect suspension set-up. When I rode the BMW, there was a noticeable pitching fore and aft as you opened up the throttle or applied the brakes – it was not an uncomfortable or annoying trait, just something that I noticed. The Tiger rides much more like a road bike – admittedly, I was riding the Tiger with the 19 inch front wheel and the lower seat height, but I’m sure that the XC variant will ride just as tightly when I try that in a couple of week’s time.
As I mentioned before, because the bike is being run-in and because the road was greasy and, in places, dirt strewn from tractors exiting fields, I was taking it easy on this test ride which gave me time to take-in and appreciate the bike more. As you would expect, the riding position offers a great view of the road ahead with enough height to be able to be over most cars. The mirrors are excellent, some of the best that I have used on a bike, giving an uncluttered and very clear view of what is behind. The switchgear is standard Triumph and very easy to get on with – some may say that it is getting a bit old-fashioned but everything is where you would expect it to be and works just as it should.
The instrument console is a great improvement over the already good Triumph dashboard. The rev counter on the right is a standard analogue clock with a digital display on the left showing speed, milage, gear position, a fuel gauge and a clock. I didn’t play around with the instruments as I was having enough fun on the bike without needing to change any of the information.
The tyres fitted to the demonstrator were Pirelli Scorpion MTs which, in my opinion, worked very well on the bike. Due to the road conditions, I was unable to push them very hard, but I did have confidence in their ability. There was just one moment in a 50 mph left-hander where I felt the rear slide a little but nothing that would scare me and I it gave me plenty of warning – I doubt that any other tyre would have behaved any differently in the same circumstances.
The Tiger that I rode was completely standard without any of the extras like ABS or heated grips, both of which were on the BMW that I tested. To be honest, didn’t miss them as I have never had these on a bike that I have owned before. The heated grips on the BMW were nice as I was wearing summer gloves on a cold day, on the Triumph however, I was wearing winter gloves and my hands were fine. If the ABS did anything on the BMW, then I didn’t notice it and I never needed it on the Tiger. I’m sure that it would be nice having ABS there as a safety net, but it is not something that feel would be essential, especially after riding the Triumph without it.
As a comparison test, I would choose the Triumph over the BMW. I was considering the BMW a few months ago until I heard that there was a mid-sized Tiger on its way. I’m glad that I held off until I had ridden both of the bikes. The new Triumph Tiger 800 is the bike that I have been wanting for a long time: it is practical and comfortable giving me the ability to tour, commute and have a bit of fun as and when the mood takes me. It is, I feel, the only bike that I will need in the future.